At the MSNBC town hall meeting where he was the sole candidate featured, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said on Feb. 17 that as president he would be “neutral” with regard to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the Charleston SC event, Trump was asked by a voter about what steps he would take to find comity between the contending sides. Trump answered that he would give it “one hell of a shot” while averring it would be “probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make.”
When asked by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough over which side is at fault for the failure reach an accord, Trump did not fall for taking sides. “You know, I don’t want to get into it, because … If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved,'” Trump said. Trump continued, saying “Let me be sort of a neutral guy. A lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal. So I don’t want to say whose fault is it. I don’t think it helps.”
Trump also revealed himself to be a skeptic about the reaching a two-state solution. “It’s possible it’s not makeable, because don’t forget it has to last — it’s wonderful to make it and it doesn’t work, but it has to last,” he said. “To make lasting peace there? Probably the toughest deal of all, but I’m going to give it a shot.”
He was not asked what he believes are the biggest obstacles to peace, but he did suggest that the growing hostility between Israelis and Palestinians (which over the last year has seen several murders of civilians) does contribute to the impasse. “A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is okay. I mean, sometimes agreements can’t be made. Not good, but, you know, you have both sides really, but one side in particular, growing up and learning that these are the worst people,” he said. “I was with a very prominent Israeli the other day. He says it’s impossible, because the other side has been trained from the time they’re children to hate Jewish people.”
Even though Trump has in the past called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a good friend,” he has questioned whether Israel is committed to peace with its neighbors. He has also suggested that Israel does not have a negotiating partner among the Palestinians. It was in December 2015 that Trump said at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, “I don’t know that Israel has the commitment to make it, and I don’t know that the other side has the commitment to make it.”
Earlier on the day of the forum, Trump made the same point. He said, “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” he said. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m okay with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”
Trump and the other Republican candidates are just three days away from their party’s primary (an open primary) in South Carolina. Polls are showing that Trump trails Sen. Ted Cruz for the first time in 31 consecutive polls. These show Trump with the support of 26% of registered Republican voters, as opposed to the 28% garnered by Cruz. Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who has tussled with Trump in the past over immigration issues, has endorsed Cruz, who is expected to do well among white evangelical Christian voters in the Palmetto State.
However, polls commissioned by Fox News shows Trump is still leading in South Carolina. In the Fox poll, Trump maintained his lead at 32 percent among South Carolina likely Republican primary voters. Ted Cruz got 19 percent, while Marco Rubio got 15 percent. These are the only three candidates earning double-digit support.
Jeb Bush and Ben Carson tie at nine percent each, and John Kasich gets six percent.
In key constituencies, Trump is doing very well in South Carolina. Of evangelical Christians voting in the primary, 31 percent are giving the nod to Trump, while Cruz got 23 percent. Rubio receives 17 percent and Bush 10 percent. Among voters who count themselves as "very" conservative, Cruz is a top pick but not by much. Among them, Cruz got 31 percent, Trump 29 percent, and Rubio 14 percent. And 37 percent of veterans support Trump, as opposed to 22 percent for Cruz, 15 percent for Rubio and 9 percent for Bush.